Two Times Music Saved/Changed My Life

Music moves you in so many ways. Numerous studies have shown how it can directly affect how you feel, the work you do, your health, your relationships, the quality of your life, the way you view the world, even your memories. Perhaps that’s why they say music is the gift you can give to somebody who has everything.

So the title is a bit misleading. If music is a part of your daily routine, then it can change and save you in ways that would be impossible to count. And there are too many moments actually, but for now these are the times that stand out off the top of my head:

Music in the mountains.

The kubing is a type of jaw harp, a traditional musical instrument hand-carved from bamboo. I was in high school, living in a school atop a mountain, when I first learned how to play it in a formal music class. I also learned to play the kulintang, a set of small gongs that produce the melodies for the ensemble. The gongs are made of bronze decorated with intricate patterns.

The kulintang is an oral tradition, so unlike the piano for instance, there are no music sheets to refer to. I think this is where I learned the true meaning of mindfulness. Perform the basic beat, play your rhythm, graduate to two or more patterns simultaneously, at the same time listening intently to the other instruments and voices. It was a head trip being in that class, and when it was over I always have to shake myself off the trance. But the pulsating hum will stay in my body and my head for hours. The vibration is real and physical, just like how you would still feel the water in your legs after a long swim.

Sonic Youth in my hometown.

The year was 1996. Sonic Youth, Beastie Boys and Foo Fighters will be playing for one night in my city, on the eve of my birthday. I was too shy to ask my parents for money just to “have a good time.” While hanging out in my friend’s house and listening to the radio, the DJ announced that they will be having a contest and the first prize is 2 VIP tickets to that concert. We joined… and guess who won the first prize?

During the concert, my friend was so delirious that she threw her Chuck Taylors toward Kim Gordon. The concert finished around 1 a.m. so we celebrated my 17th birthday hunting around for her Chucks. Luckily we found it, intact on the stage. Then I kissed the boy who has been pestering me for months at school. This boy is still around.

Next time: My father‘s music, my escapist music as a young, overwhelmed mom and the sounds I’m listening to as I type this piece.

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